Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association

Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association: The Origins Story

By COL (Ret) Steve Shappell
VP, History, National Executive Council (NEC), AGCRA

What’s the difference between the Adjutant General’s Corps, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment, and the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association?  While they are not interchangeable terms for the same entity, they are three separate but mutually supporting organizations.

The Adjutant General’s Corps is virtually as old as the Army itself.   On June 16, 1775, the Continental Congress resolved that there be an Adjutant General of the Continental Army.  The very next day they selected Horatio Gates, former British Major, as the first Adjutant General of the Continental Army with the rank of Brigadier General.  This appointment marked the birth of the Adjutant General’s Corps and established the Adjutant General branch as the oldest Combat Service Support branch of the Army.

Yet, it would not be until more than 200 years later that the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment came into existence.

In 1981 the US Army introduced the Regimental System into its manning construct.  Initially limited to Combat Arms, the purpose of the Regimental System was to affiliate Soldiers with a regiment throughout their careers, in order to foster a sense of belonging and unit identity. In addition, the system sought to perpetuate the history, lineage, and honors of the regiments.  With multiple battalions in a regiment, and the battalions stationed at various places around the world, in theory, a Soldier could rotate between the continental United States and overseas assignments without leaving the regiment.  Several years later, Combat Support and Combat Services Support branches were added to the Regimental System, with each branch or corps becoming a single regiment.

In December 1985, the Chief of Staff of the Army approved the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Implementation Plan.  An estimated 54,000 Active component Soldiers were integrated into the Regiment, in addition to over 53,000 Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers.  The actual activation of the Regiment took place on June 17, 1987, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.   Two training battalions and eight reception battalions were redesignated and activated in the Regiment on the same day.  The Army designated Fort Benjamin Harrison, as the regimental home.  The Institute of Heraldry designed the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Crest and Colors, as well as the colors and crest for the redesignated battalions.

It was unfunded requirements associated with the regimental activation and unit redesignations that initially drove the need for the creation of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association.  The regimental activation required the regimental crests for distribution to the Soldiers of the Regiment, as well as the funding of activation events at the Adjutant General School and the installations on which the redesignated units resided.  These expenses were costs that had not been projected beforehand and thus were not in the School’s budget.

For this reason, the Adjutant General School leadership established the Adjutant General’s Corp Regimental Association as a non-profit organization whose primary purpose was to support the aims and objectives of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment.  The Association’s intent was to fund regimental projects through the sale of Adjutant General’s Corps memorabilia.

There were 199 founding members of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, including Major Generals Verne L. Bowers, J. C. Pennington, Kenneth G. Wickham, and William G. O’Lesky; and Brigadier Generals Ronald E. Brooks, R. Lex Dilworth, James A. Norell, Mildred E. Hedberg, and Jack T. Pink.  Also present as founding members were several officers who would later go on to be General Officers of the Adjutant General’s Corps, including Captain Reuben D. Jones, Lieutenant Colonel Neil N. Snyder III, Colonel Frederick E. Vollrath,  and Colonel Arthur T. Dean.

As initially envisioned, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association was a worldwide organization based at Fort Benjamin Harrison.   Much of the early activity of the Association was thus focused on Fort Benjamin Harrison.   The first Chapter of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, the Gold Vault Chapter – based at Fort Knox, Kentucky, was activated on December 5, 1988, and has been in continuous operation since that time.   One month later, the January 1989 edition of “1775,” The Journal of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, announced the commencement of a worldwide Chapter program.  The next Chapter activated was the Iron Mike Chapter at Fort Bragg, activated on June 24, 1989.

Since the commencement of the worldwide Chapter program, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association has established over 55 Chapters worldwide.  Some of these, like the Morning Calm Chapter in the Republic of Korea, activated on November 9, 1989, remain in operation today.  As Chapters are located in places where the Army has Soldiers, some of these Chapters have ceased to operate as the Army has closed bases in the United States and around the world – permanently closed Chapters include the Greater Atlanta Chapter at Fort McPherson, Georgia (activated July 11, 1992); the Horatio Gates Chapter at Fort Benjamin Harrison (activated November 17, 1989, and inactivated Jun 23, 2003); and the Gateway Chapter at St. Louis, Missouri (activated October 28, 1998, and inactivated November 17, 2008).  Today, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association includes, in addition to installation-based Chapters, two Virtual Chapters (Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF Chapter) and the Military Entrance Processing Command (Freedom’s Front Door Chapter)).  Additionally, in recent years Army National Guard focused Chapters have been activated, including the Volunteer Chapter (Tennessee National Guard) on August 12, 2015, and the S.H.I.E.L.D Chapter (Oregon National Guard) on December 9, 2017.

Due to the relocation of the Adjutant General School from Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1995, on July 14th of that year, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association officially moved its operating location to the new site of the School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

The position of the Commandant of the Adjutant General School, as the Chief of the Adjutant General’s Corps, traditionally carried with it the subsequent election as President of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association.   Additionally, members of the National Executive Council were traditionally drawn from the schoolhouse staff.  Through this connection, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, while a private association, operated the Regimental Sutler Store on the premises of the Adjutant General School – first at Fort Benjamin Harrison and later at Fort Jackson. It was the proceeds from this store that, primarily, enabled the Regimental Association to fund activities in support of the Adjutant General School and the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment.

Over the years, activities funded by the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association have included an annual Scholarship Program, speaker honorarium, and ball sponsorships.

The Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association is, and has always been, a private organization in support of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment and the Adjutant General School.  As such, the Association has always had to be mindful of the Army regulations concerning the operations of private organizations on Army installations [1].  In 2016, it became apparent to the National Executive Council that operations of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association, headquarters on Fort Jackson and remaining in compliance with Army regulations, were no longer conducive to Association operations.  Thus, the Association moved all of its operations off post (including the Sutler Store) and determined that the Association leadership would no longer be automatically drawn from the Adjutant General School.

Colonel Neil McIntyre, Commandant of the Adjutant General School, resigned as Association President, and Colonel (Retired) Rob Manning, a former Commandant of the Adjutant General School and former President of the Association, was once again elected by the National Executive Committee to serve as Association President.  Moreover, this move off of the Army installation enabled the National Executive Council to expand its aperture for board members who are now drawn from around the world.

For historical purposes, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association has retained the term “Regimental” in its title as the Association was founded in 1987.  However, the re-publication of AR 870-21, The U.S. Army Regimental System, on 13 April 2017, officially dropped the term “Regiment” for the Adjutant General’s Corps.  The Adjutant General’s Corps is now listed as a separate “Corps” within the regulation.

Earlier this year – mindful that the flag traditionally associated with the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association is in fact the flag designed by the Institute of Heraldry for the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment – Colonel (Retired) Manning authorized a flag design contest to develop a visual representation to show that the Association is an organization distinct from the Adjutant General School and the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment (now officially called the Adjutant General’s Corps).

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[1] Primarily Army Regulation 210-1, Private Organizations on Department of the Army Installations

1SG (Ret) Albert Curley, a Buffalo Soldier Remembered

From COL (Ret) James (Jim) L. Walker, Distinguished Member of the AG Corps, Class of 2022.

Please take the time to read and appreciate COL (Ret) Walker’s remembrance of 1SG (Ret) Albert Curley who passed away at the age of 96 years old on September 30th, 2018 in Junction City, KS, and is believed to have been one of the last two surviving Buffalo Soldiers.

You can read COL (Ret) Walker’s remembrance of 1SG (Ret) Curley HERE.

Performing Human Resources on the Fly

“Performing Human Resources on the Fly”
Reflections on Military Operations against Foreign Incursions
(An updated previous article published in 1775)
By COL (Ret) Gary L Gresh

Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in February 2022, reminded me recently of just how much history tends to repeat itself in world affairs. When I was just a newly minted Colonel fresh from the War College, I was assigned to Fort Bragg to be the Adjutant General of the 18th Airborne Corps and then the first Commander of the 18th Personnel Group, a new Brigade-like structure being fielded in 1990.

Never in a million years would I have thought I would actually soon be headed into a war zone. Fate has a way of throwing you a curve ball when you least expect it and perhaps when you are the least able to react and adapt quickly enough. That’s exactly what happened to me in August 1990, 32 years ago on the eve of Operation Desert Shield as I unpacked moving boxes in my newly assigned quarters on Fort Bragg, NC.

Putin’s “Special Military Operation” into Ukraine this year, on the surface, is very similar to Saddam Hussain’s incursion into Kuwait in 1990. But the strategic differences are immense. Kuwait is a very small country with virtually no ability to defend itself against a well-armed enemy, while Ukraine is a country larger than Texas, with a modern, but very young Army and Air Force.

Inserting America or NATO into the Ukraine Incursion would have been much more difficult than it was in Kuwait in 1990. For one thing, Russia is a nuclear armed power while Iraq was not. Secondly, inserting ourselves into Ukraine AFTER Russia had invaded the country might invite a nuclear confrontation with Russia, something no power wanted to invite.

In the future, should the US want to protect an ally through strategic power involving a nuclear armed country, it would probably have to “beat the enemy to the punch”, so to speak, by inserting a “Training Team into the targeted country BEFORE the possible enemy invaded the country, leaving the Enemy with the Nuclear confrontation dilemma. This trip-wire defense has been highly successful in Europe after WWII and In Korea for over 40 years.

But you can be assured, no-matter how this current world crisis may be resolved, YOU, the AG Soldier must be prepared to “possibly” pack your rucksack, kiss your loved ones goodbye, and board a huge aircraft enroute to “God only knows where” to help a struggling democracy fight against totalitarianism.

Little did I know that day in August 1990, while continuing to unpack boxes, I would receive a telephone call from the Corps Operations Center asking me to report to the Headquarters immediately to meet with the Corps leadership team. I would not return to live in my quarters until May of the following year, as we were quarantined, briefed, and began immediate preparation for deployment to Saudi Arabia to begin Operation Desert Shield and subsequently Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.

Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq, and the 18th Airborne Corps was designated by the President to go into Kuwait and force the Iraqi army to go back home.

Patriot Batteries engaging incoming fire during Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm.

Fate had struck me again (my first deployment was in Vietnam) and this time I felt particularly unprepared. I had not even been to my office, I knew only a few of the assigned Officers and NCOs of the Corps’ AG office, and I was completely unprepared for the firestorm of activity with which I was about to embark. I was immediately plunged into the most stressful and action-packed preparation I had ever witnessed and quite literally felt like a cork floating on a fast-running river.  And, I had absolutely no control over and knew nothing of where the river was taking me.

I had arrived at Fort Bragg ready to transition the Corps AG Office to the 18th Personnel Group for which I had been selected as the first Commander of that Group which was to stand up sometime between October 1990 and January 1991.

I next remember sitting on a 747-jet headed for Saudi Arabia with the advanced party of the Corps, a group of superb Officers and NCOs who would together begin the next 6 months of round the clock preparation to plan, receive and set up a deployed Airborne Corps on the sands of Saudi Arabia, an absolute Human Resources nightmare of planning, coordination, and execution.

Since 1776, the American Army ran on paperwork – “Forms” starting with the unit morning report of who was present to who was sick, and where all units were stationed. Nothing really changed in the Army from 1776 to 1980 in regards to paperwork! We still shuffled paper to accomplish most anything. When the 18th Airborne Corps deployed in August 1991, we had NO INTERNET, NO LAPTOP COMPUTERS, NO I-PHONES, NO WI-FI, NO FACEBOOK, NO TWITTER, and perhaps biggest of all, NO EMAIL! We had CNN on TV if lucky and a few Telephone lines.

The Army personnel community had been planning for automation for almost 20 years, but everything was bulky, cumbersome, and had to be tied together by phone lines. The TACCS Box alone, the Army’s basic automation device, was the size of two-foot lockers and took two Soldiers to load and unload from any vehicle.

When we began leaving Fort Bragg on 10 August 1991, we were completely unplugged from “the Army Personnel System”, “SIDPERS”, and had only the database we had taken with us into Saudi Arabia. We had about a dozen TACCS computers with punch card input devices, each supporting about 500 troops, and absolutely no electronic connection with the Department of the Army except over long-distance phone lines. I was convinced that I was about to become the first Commander of the 18th Personnel Group, but also the first Commander to be relieved when I could not even tell the Corps Commander how many troops we had in country on any given day, let alone run casualty data or replacements!

Lest I forget, it was not only those of us at Fort Bragg who were putting in 24-hour days, as all HR professionals in the Army were working overtime to help the effort. The Army DCSPER mobilized every personnel asset he could to help support the effort. Korea, Europe, and the Reserve components and the Commandant of the AG School ramped up to support the effort with deployed units, deployed individual fillers and replacements, and the DCSPER himself, LTG Vollrath, called me several times by telephone to ask what I needed and how they could support. He was extremely concerned, as was I. It was a huge model of cooperation among personnel support agencies.

Pulling on the basics of Personnel Doctrine, we knew we had four core competencies and seven functions we had to be prepared to accomplish while protecting, sustaining, and taking care of the Soldiers assigned to us to do the Personnel Mission. I soon learned that giving only mission-style orders, and allowing individual ingenuity and innovation to run wild among the company grade officers and NCOs was the only way to succeed in this environment. You just had to trust your subordinates until or unless they proved unworthy.

Our NCOs were Phenomenal! That’s where the US Army has a huge advantage over the Russian Army now trying to conquer Ukraine. The Russian Army has no middle leadership like our NCOs.

This AGCRA webpage does not have enough space to tell the entire story of the next 12 months of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so I will concentrate on the four most demanding tasks we had to overcome while trying to support a deployed and growing Corps: Organization, Automation, Mail, and Logistics. Bottom Line – You must be prepared to change on the fly, innovate, and allow junior officers and NCOs to do their jobs.

Organization: We had none. We deployed as an AG section only to find all of our Personnel assets spread across the Corps Support Command with little in the way of vehicles and life support to stand on their own as we transitioned to a Personnel Group Structure. Innovative Company Grade Officers, NCOs, and Professional Civilians came together to advise, plan and support the construction of a Group Structure while deployed on the sands of Saudi Arabia. The DCSPER and MILPERCEN provided individual fillers as needed to flush out a Group Staff and the P&A Battalion Commanders and staffs came together to form an effective Group Structure. The Corps Commander decided to form the group early and to detach all units from the COSCOM so that the COSCOM could focus on its huge mission of bringing ammunition and supplies into the Corps. This left the Personnel Group on its own to form, set up operations, and support itself as it almost doubled in size weekly. The Officers and NCOs took on this challenge with absolute resolve and “Got–it-Done”.

Automation: We had some. We had 12 TACCS Boxes loaded with the basics of the Corps Headquarters. But we needed a huge database, which we did not have, nor did we have the capability to store a huge database. Once again, the American Army NCO stood up to the challenge. The head of my SIDPERS section politely asked me to go get some coffee while they pondered the situation and came up with a proposal to solve the problem. Their solution was absolutely brilliant. They coined the phrase “Five Digit Midget”. The “FDM” was a way of changing the coding in the TACCS box to hold only five pieces of critical information on each Soldier in the Corps: Name, Rank, SSN, MOS and Unit of Assignment.

These were the basic elements needed to report strength accounting, location, casualty and units. It allowed the section to dump thousands of pieces of information currently stored in the TACCS boxes allowing much more room in the database. By linking the TACCS boxes together in tandem much like a string of Christmas tree lights, they were able to use these same TACCS boxes to upload an entire Corps strength. This required placing HR soldiers at every incoming air and sea terminal to collect the five pieces of information from manifests as units landed and to deploy LNO teams to each hospital and aid station to collect casualty data. All of this was made possible by the DCSPER and MILPERCEN who sent us NCO fillers from Korea.

Meanwhile, and largely unknown to us, the DCSPER was pulling out all the stops to buy and deploy only recently produced Laptop Commuters by DELL to theater as quickly as possible to give us a database capability. These laptops would eventually begin arriving to our area in December 1990 to January 1991. But in the meantime, the brilliant database built by the NCOs of the 18th Personnel Group and the 18th P&A Battalion stood the tests of time.

MAIL: Yes, we had Mail: Perhaps our biggest challenge was the US MAIL! Even in 1991, the soldier still penned hand written letters and dropped them into the US Mail to loved ones back in the states. There was NO EMAIL, NO TEXT MESSAGES, NO FACEBOOK, NO TWITTER, and lastly few phones to call home. Perhaps even worse, stamps in 1991 were of the LICK–EM, STICK-EM type which would quickly become a mass of glued paper in the Soldier’s sweaty pocket in Saudi Arabia. The DCSPER helped us out with that by getting Congress to pass free mail. You will still have hand written mail and packages today, but I recommend you should prepare for what you do when the WI-FI fails and EMAIL does not work, because it will. Fate, to be sure, has a plan! Postal personnel and unit assets alone would account for almost 35% of the Group by the time the deployment came to an end.

The 18th Personnel Group quickly became the largest deployed Personnel Brigade in History since WWII. When over 1700 replacements began filing into the Corps, through the Replacement Detachment, the 18th Personnel Group actually became the largest unit in the Corps Rear Detachment. We fed, housed, and supplied newly arriving troops. The Reserve component quickly became the savior to the Corps as it sent Postal Companies, fillers, Mess Teams, US postal employees, and sorting equipment into the Group.

Then Fate struck again. A wonderful columnist named Ann Landers decided to print a series of articles in every newspaper in the country telling Americans that Soldiers, particularly women Soldiers, needed personal sanitary toiletries and to send them addressed to ANY SOLDIER, 18th Personnel Group, Saudi Arabia! Tractor-trailers began delivering TONS of boxes to be distributed to Soldiers requiring forklifts and huge storage areas just to place and sort. Thank God, it does not rain often in Saudi Arabia, as all of these packages had to sit out in the weather until distributed.

LOGISTICS: The Group had little in the way of logistics personnel, vehicles, tentage, mess facilities, or even office basics such as tables and chairs.

Thankfully, the DCSPER in conjunction with the DCSLOG and Fort Lee, started funneling supplies and logistics to the 18th Personnel Group as quickly as possible. But this required officers to construct hand written property books and ways of tracking supplies and equipment. This challenge was with us every day until the end of the deployment and even had us setting up Arms Rooms and secure storage facilities for weapons that were funneled back to the 18th P&A Battalion Replacement Detachment from hospitals and aid stations that could not hold them while on the move. Remarkably, there were only two reports of survey needed at the end of the deployment to account for the few lost items during the war.

Desert Shield and Desert Storm was the first ever Overseas deployment of an entire Army Corps in less than six months, many of the units taking their own equipment and many deploying without TOE equipment requiring Reserve Component Depot support from across the USA. Everyday felt like you were inside a blender being spun in 100 different directions at once. But incredibly, the Officers, NCOs, and Soldiers of America made it all happen. It was an honor to serve with every one of them. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you unleash the potential and ingenuity of the American Soldier.

COL Gary L. Gresh (left) with members of the 18th Personnel Group during Desert Shield / Desert Storm.

COL (Ret) Gary L. Gresh
* Former Commander, 18th Personnel Group (Airborne)
Fort Bragg, NC
* 20th Commandant, AG School, 1996-1998
Fort Jackson, SC
* AG Corps Hall of Fame, Class of 2011
* Greshg@bellsouth.net